Friday, December 4, 2009

Big Sky Theory? Just a Theory!--December 3, 2009

Woke up at 7:00 A.M.  Matt and I were going to try and get to our next project on time to start photo-shootin'.  Requested the shuttle for 7:45, ate breakfast, finished packing, then came down for the shuttle.  I was told it was gone and would be back in 15 minutes.  Hmm.

Matt and I waited in the lobby until 8:15.  I asked where our "promised shuttle" was.  "I'm not sure, but it's coming in a few minutes."  "I was told it was going to be here at 7:45...30 minutes ago.  We need to get to the airport."  "I don't know where it's at, but it's coming.  Maybe it got stuck by a train."  My face undoubtedly gave her the look of stupidity.  In a very sarcastic voice, I asked, "A 30-minute train"?  "Yes."  I walked off.

After those words, she went and asked the manager to take us.  After telling her the situation, he later told us he asked her why it took so long.  I thought about my comments to the lady that morning, and I don't think they were out of line.  I was admittedly frustrated, but I hate being told one thing only to find out another.  It happens with people (including myself) more often than I like.  It's nothing more than a lack of integrity.  It is starting to grind my bones.

Went to the airport, packed up, then hit the skies.  I was 100 miles away from my project.  I ended up getting on station northeast of Dallas at 9:51 A.M...only five minutes after the window opened!  Not a bad day.  I started my routine.  North, south, north, south.

I flew until noon, then landed for fuel in Bonham, Texas.  This airport was BASIC.  Now don't get me wrong, I love general aviation, but this field was simple.  From the self-serve fuel pump to the asphalt-patched runway to the very simple bathrooms (I used the Ladies one on accident!), it was just...hmm...simple.  I am admittedly pampered now...used to line guys coming out to pump my gas.  But here I was having to pump my own fuel!

And oooooooooooooooooooh, the COLD!!!  It was 20 degrees at 5000 feet.  And it sure wasn't much warmer on the ground!  We had a brisk northern wind at over 10 knots...and no protection.  I was so thankful for my Walls jacket I had just purchased last week.  On my flight over, I realized I wasn't going to last all day, so I managed to pull the jacket out from my stuff in the back and put it on...hard in a Cessna 172!  It took me a solid 5 miles!  And I only got off 10 degrees!  So for the next few hours before I fueled, I wore a brand-new jacket complete the the price tags and all.  Classic.

At Jones airport, a man in business clothes came out to talk to me.  I was in a hurry to get my gas pumped, and I made small talk about my airplane.  But I wanted nothing more than to get out of the cold.  He said he used to take pictures from a Cessna 140 he owned...the old 35mm camera type!  haha.  I love the "progress" of aviation.  I'll be telling stories of when I used to use a $200,000 camera rig to take pictures.  How ancient that will seem.

I later looked at his Cessna 140 parked under an overhang and concluded that I would like to own one of these.

Went back in the skies, finished up a couple more plans, then headed for Gainesville, Texas.  It was 52 miles away.  The flight over was nice...though a bit bumpy at 4500 feet.  When I was around 15 miles out, I radioed to see where Matt was.  He said he was about the same distance..."crossing the highway."  ha!  I myself was getting ready to cross the highway!  I had been staring ahead most of this flight, so I looked south to see if I could find him.  He had started 12 miles south of me at the 52-mile mark, so he should still be south of me.  But what is that?

To my left, I saw a very large dark object in the sky.  Right at my altitude.  It's funny thinking about now, but it looked just like an airplane!  ha!  An airplane, I thought!  That is so close!  And with that, I realized just how close it was!  An airplane was on a collision course with me at my altitude.  4500 feet.  He was at my 9 to 10 o'clock.  And doing nothing but getting bigger.  I dove.  I lost about 300 feet and raised a wing so that he would see me, keeping an eye on him the entire time to see if he would make a drastic move at the last second...I was now all SEE AND AVOID (at all costs!).  He did nothing.  I watched him pass right over top and behind of me, then quickly swung my head around to my 5 o'clock position to see him pass by.  A Mooney.  That forward tail is a tell-tale give-a-way.  I smiled inside.

It's a wonderful place to be in life when you realize you have no control over anything.  My life has taught me more than I wished to know about that.  But in aviation, I see the beauty in something as simple as this.  Maybe I should be mad, maybe I should be on radar, maybe I should feel devastated that I was less than 1/4 mile from hitting someone, maybe I should be scared.  But I am anything but that.  I realize that I can only do so much.  The rest is way beyond my control.  Granted, I will be the best pilot that I know how to be, but at the end of the day, I just don't control anything.  My time is coming.  Whether it's today or in 60 years, I'm a fool to think that I can cheat death.  I find a subtle beauty in that.

"Matt, thanks, man.  You saved my life today."  I radioed him up and told him how if I hadn't called him up to see where he was and looked south out my window, I would have probably never seen the guy.  And based upon his lack of movement or concern, this guy probably never saw me.  "Thanks, man!"  Fate is the Hunter.

Well, I continued on, jumping into a circus of a ride at the traffic pattern.  Some guy was doing a steep spiral, Indian students were attacking, and I was coming to join the mess.  But we had a productive day, and I was eager to meet this new town.  Landed, met the folks there (very nice, though a bit less talkative than I'm used to), looked around the FBO, had Enterprise deliver a car for me, then headed for the hotel.

Matt and I did our paperwork, then headed to Sarah's on the Square for supper.  It was ok.  It was definitely geared towards the older folks.  But I usually like those was just...well, geared towards upper-class but antique shopper old folks.  Who like wine.  That type.  Definitely NOT Matt or my's style.

Ended up going to McDonald's where I grabbed a sundae and Matt grabbed two burgers, a sundae, and a coffee.  That restaurant is definitely NOT his style.

Came back to our hotel.  Our $50/night hotel.  Matt is scared to death of bed bugs in his bed.  I do nothing but laugh.  Earlier, the forecast was calling for snow tomorrow.  But it looks like that has been changed.  As of now, we shall get another perfect day of flying.  As of now.

I flew 6.0 hours today.  The hours are adding up quickly.  Maybe more of the same tomorrow.  Sweet action.

Went to bed at 11:30.

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